Kanye West – Donda [Review]

What is there to not call Kanye West? Genius producer. Passable rapper. Trump enthusiast. Idiot savant. Attention whore.

But in all seriousness, if you have read my reviews of his last two solo projects, you can tell that Kanye had always succeeded in testing me and the audience I’m part of, due to his antics taking more precedence over what we all come for….the music. Though it’s understandable if you just don’t have the patience to deal anymore, but those with thick skin and a knack for separating the art from the artist, you wanna hear what you’ve been missing if you didn’t attend any of his three listening parties for the album.

Does Ye do right by his mom? Will Jesus be left pissed? Let’s find out as we experience the near 2-hour spectacle that is…DONDA.

1. Donda Chant
Featuring Syleena Johnson; Produced by Kanye West
Learning more about why this is here and why it is designed the way it is, I can’t really hate or comment on the significance of this but if the motive was doing right by his mother in honoring her memory…couldn’t have done it any better than that.

2. Jail
Featuring Jay-Z; Produced by E*Vax, Kanye West, Sean Solymar, Mike Dean, Ojivolta, 88-Keys, & Dem Jointz
That “dun-dun….dun-dun riff still gets me, like this is gonna be great in a live setting. The first couple of listens to this song, this was definitely one of my least favorites from the album, but it’s something about that chorus that is just impactful. Jay-Z, you’re showing your age! And what I mean by that, is that I’m not necessarily a fan of the flow, he sounds like he’s not in pocket, but he is definitely dropping some gems. Telling his mom he’s looking after him now that she’s gone, how he feels about outside forces attempting to control the narratives, even teasing Watch the Throne 2….yea one was good enough. It’s a song that will grow on me with more listens, but for now, I’m still a little indifferent.

3. God Breathed
Featuring Vory; Produced by Arrow Sunday, Brian Miller, Ojivolta, E*Vax, & Kanye West
I’m in love with the Yeezus-era minimalist production here. While I like Vory’s contributions, Kanye slightly gets on my nerves here. From the overly repetitive “I know God breathed on this” chorus to his cringe lines ranging from “Dustin, he a Hoffman” to “God, the father, like Maury”.

I know Ye’s not the BEST lyricist but come on, not even J. Cole would write a cringe bar like that… or would he. And then also this did NOT need to be the length that it was. I’m nitpicking at this point but yeah, not a fan of this song.

4. Off the Grid
Featuring Fivio Foreign & Playboi Carti; Produced by David x Eli, Sloane, Ojivolta, AyoAA, 30 Roc & Kanye West
The moment I heard Carti… I went ballistic. Playboi Carti has become an acquired taste for me in the last few months, so I know that he can either add to a track or he can take away from it and in this case, that energy is needed on what was already a hype track.

Being I don’t listen to Fivio like that or any NY Drill, I was thinking, “he sliding”… but people are overrating the hell out of this verse. Is he that trash usually? Kanye really sounds great here, The “God is my bestie” line doesn’t irk me as much, but yeah, that beat transition from Hip-Hop to trap to drill is seamless here. Best track so far.

5. Hurricane
Featuring The Weeknd & Lil Baby; Produced by Nascent, Ojivolta, Mike Dean, Kanye West, Ronny J, BoogzDaBeast, & DJ Khalil
Abel turning his life over to the Lord? Nah. Lol. But he sounds very immaculate here on the chorus. Lil Baby, I’m starting to see why people put him on such a pedestal, definitely one of the most improved rappers in the last couple years. Kanye again, sounding great, as he is basically describing his tumultuous last few years, from his marriage to how he’s viewed by the media and the public. You’re right…everybody IS so judgmental…but if it’s warranted. Another great song here.

6. Praise God
Featuring Baby Keem & Travis Scott; Produced by Ojivolta, Mike Dean, Sloane, Kanye West, ZenTachi, & 30 Roc
Mmmm…I’m not feeling this as much as I did during the initial listen. Travis of course ain’t really saying nothing. Baby Keem…is doing Baby Keem things but I will say this…I’ve heard both Keem and Ye do the squeaky voice many times throughout the song…can we FINALLY acknowledge 645AR as the Head of the Squeakers Table???

7. Jonah
Featuring Lil Durk & Vory; Produced by Wheezy, Mike Dean, Kanye West, DRTWRK, & TT Audi
For a minute I thought that was RMR, there’s a bit of a twang in Vory’s voice but he is from Houston. Man…pray for Lil Durk man, even if you don’t pray, pray for him. He is losing everyone around him and he reflects on that in his verse. I don’t like this as much as I like “Off the Grid” and “Hurricane” but this is still a favorite of mines because of Vory and Durk.

8. Ok Ok
Featuring Fivio Foreign, Rooga, & Lil Yachty; Produced by Louis Bell, Boi-1da, & Kanye West
Why do these mid rappers wait to work with someone like Kanye to sound tolerable if not…good? Yeah Yachty…IM TALKING TO YOU! Shout out to the Juice WRLD shoutout. This beat reminds me of some Dark Twisted Fantasy material. It’s good. Not great.

9. Junya
Featuring Playboi Carti; Produced by Ojivolta, Kanye West, Roark Bailey, & Digital Nas
People still wear watches?

Anyways, Carti appears again and as I mentioned, he can either add to a song…or not add to a song…and he doesn’t really do much of anything here. The bass rattles here, I vibes with the organ, and also…as a Milwaukee native and as someone who learned this the hard way…Kanye…

NEVER MISPRONOUNCE GIANNIS’s NAME AGAIN!!!

Also…this is the song he supposedly dissed Drake on?…man this is such rich light-skinned nigga behavior. Yeah, you don’t have to be light-skinned to act light-skinned. Anyways…a song I was vibing with before, not so much now. It will sound great in a car or a church parking lot function, but outside of that…ehh.

10. Believe What I Say
Produced by Ojivolta, FnZ, BoogzDaBeast, Dem Jointz, & Kanye West
Speaking of the church parking lot. Tell me that beat drop coupled with the Lauryn Hill sample is not a stepping anthem in the making. Your grandmother will levitate out of her wheelchair when she hears this. But yeah, this is just so wholesome and feel good here, like you can just enjoy a sunny day or be around (tolerate) your extended family with this song in the background. This screams “SUMMERTIME COOKOUT MUSIC”. I like this!

11. 24
Featuring Sunday Service Choir; Produced by Brian Miller, Cory Henry, Warryn Campbell, Ojivolta, & Kanye West
This album doesn’t say that there are any interludes on here, but this definitely feels like one. I’m not a gospel fan or enthusiast, so I can’t relate to this but if this music suits you, you will enjoy this.

12. Remote Control
Featuring Young Thug; Produced by Ojivolta, Mike Dean, 88-Keys, Kanye West, CuBeatz, & Digital Nas
An OnlyFans shout out…that ain’t Christ-like. Anyways, the singing is a bit ehh for me…Young Thug as usual not making any damn sense here. But that North Pole/Don’t freeze up on a pole line… IS THAT REALLY CHRIST LIKE?!!?!

13. Moon
Featuring Kid Cudi & Don Toliver; Produced by DJ Khalil, BoogzDaBeast, E*Vax, & Kanye West
If there’s something Kanye is great at is having people on his albums and using them to their strengths. DJ KHALED COULD NEVER! The combo of Don Toliver and Kid Cudi creates this tranquil feeling that comes over the guitars that just relaxes you. Like you can just play this after a long day and you can just escape to a memory or an emotion. That’s some of the best music for me. Another highlight for me.

14. Heaven and Hell
Produced by Nabeyin, Ojivolta, Wallis Lane, BoogzDaBeast, 88-Keys, & Kanye West
This album is long as fuck. This song is the definition of “it is what it is”.

15. Donda
Featuring Stalone & Tony Williams; Produced by Ojivolta, FnZ, BoogzDaBeast, & Kanye West
Kanye loves his mother. No more no less. This song should have been the intro, but an album as long as this, that’s just me “fantasy booking” how I would curate the album.

16. Keep My Spirit Alive
Featuring Conway The Machine, Westside Gunn, & KayCyy; Produced by FnZ, Ojivolta, BoogzDaBeast, & Kanye West
Griselda. By fashion rebels.

It’s good to hear Hall ‘n Nash over production that doesn’t sound like what they’re comfortable on. Ye is serviceable on here. The drums remind me of Graduation Ye here so that’s a nice touch. I like how there are different eras of Ye covered here but updated for today’s generation of rappers and listeners.

17. Jesus Lord
Featuring Jay Electronica; Produced by Mike Dean, Swizz Beatz, Kanye West, & Gesaffelstein
This may be track of the year.

Everything just works here. The Swizz Beatz knock of the drums, the organs that I’m sure Mike Dean was at the helm, Gesaffelstein I’m sure helped with that as well. Kanye dropping gems (ghostwritten or not).

I swear you brought life to the party
When you lost your life, it took the life out the party

That line just hits if you lost someone recently. Jay Elec comes on and drops an “Exhibit C”-level verse and while I’m aware the song is already long, but for some reason, I don’t want it to end. Also, shout out to Larry Hoover’s son at the end.

18. New Again
Featuring Chris Brown; Produced by Mia Wallis, 88-Keys, Ojivolta, Dem Jointz, Wallis Lane, BoogzDaBeast, & Kanye West
Once again, if you’re into gospel, you’ll love this. I appreciate it and the song isn’t really bad, but it’s not for me. The hook stands out the most out of this whole song.

19. Tell the Vision
Featuring Pop Smoke; Produced by Ojivolta, FnZ, BoogzDaBeast, & Kanye West
This. Did. Not. Need. To. Be. Here.

Just a waste of time and does a disservice to Pop’s legacy just throwing a reprise of a song that was already out.

20. Lord I Need You
Featuring Sunday Service Choir; Produced by E*Vax, Hector Soundz, Mickey Alexander, Ojivolta, FnZ, BoogzDaBeast, Wheezy, & Kanye West
Bored. This album is long as fuck.

21. Pure Souls
Featuring Shenseea & Roddy Ricch; Produced by Mike Dean, Ojivolta, Bastian Völkel, Shuko, Sucuki, BoogzDaBeast, Fya Man, & Kanye West
That gospel bounce. Not much to say, this just sounds like I would bump on the way to the after church dinner at Cracker Barrel. No more no less.

22. Come to Life
Produced by Chopsquad DJ, Kanye West, Mike Dean, Warryn Campbell, Jeff Bhasker, & Ojivolta
I think watching the video yesterday showed this song in a brand new light. Much like “Moon”, it’s something about there being nothing for a backdrop except for a simple organ that puts the lyrics and the harmonies pop more. I wasn’t on the boat with the song on the initial listen but now a week in, this has become another favorite and highlight for me.

23. No Child Left Behind
Featuring Sunday Service Choir & Vory; Produced by Cashmere Brown, BoogzDaBeast, Kanye West, & Gesaffelstein
THIS should have been the end of the album. It’s conclusive, finite, and should have really been the cap on what was such a bloated album. But there are four more songs and quite frankly, I’m not repeating what I said but to add other niggas in so I’ll give you the cliff notes…

24. Jail, Pt. 2
Featuring DaBaby & Marilyn Manson; Produced by Mike Dean, 88-Keys, Ojivolta, Dem Jointz, Sean Solymar, & Kanye West
DaBaby and Marilyn Manson… let’s not act like this Kanye trying to execute another publicity stunt on what felt like a million throughout this rollout. And learning that he invited Trump to join. Yea, Kanye you can go fuck yourself with that one.

25. Ok Ok, Pt. 2/26. Junya, Pt. 2
Featuring Rooga & Shenseea; Produced by Louis Bell, Boi-1da, & Kanye West/Featuring Playboi Carti & Ty Dolla $ign; Produced by Roark Bailey, Ojivolta, Digital Nas, & Kanye West
This album is LONG AS FUCK.

27. Jesus Lord, Pt. 2
Featuring The LOX & Jay Electronica; Produced by Gesaffelstein, Kanye West, Swizz Beatz, & Mike Dean
As much as I love the LOX and as their verses were serviceable, this didn’t feel needed, which is a shame, because this could’ve easily replaced the O.G. version with the names involved on paper alone.

BOTTOM LINE

Alright… where do I start?

I came into this having absolutely no expectations as you can tell from my reviews of both Ye and Jesus Is King, that I don’t think Kanye had what it took to captivate us anymore and that anything he did outside of the music would be the focal point from now on. This is the closest Kanye has got since Pablo to fulfilling the vision that he is setting out to present since having this new lease on life.

The pros: A lot of these songs sounded like they would fit perfectly on Jesus Is King if he had just honed down, perfected his craft on the production, and really give us his perspective lyrically. Instead, we got a blatant effort of him profiting off of his religious beliefs. His collaborators, while I don’t think steals the show, compliment Ye while blending the secular aspects of their music with Ye’s new holier-than-thou ideals.

The cons: As they always are… is Kanye.

This album is too long and too bloated with filler that I don’t care how many Soulja Boys come out and complain about being left off, it’s doing us a disservice having to take tracks that render pointless to what this album is supposed to stand for and be in tribute of. I will take a short, 10-12 track 35 to 40-minute album over an almost two-hour album any day and the albums that are that length have a cohesion throughout that keeps you intrigued. This does not have that.

So, long story less long, I know there’s a CLASSIC that is hidden within these 2 hours, but I’m not judging it off what I want it to be, I’m judging it off what it is. And while Kanye does a great job at repairing what he damaged on Jesus Is King, his ambition mixed with his beliefs and delusions of grandeur make for a beautiful light twisted mess of an album. But I’m sure it doesn’t matter what I think to Kanye but more of… what would Donda think?

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